A triumph, a let down, and a ?!?!?! during the first 3 cover battle stages – Asian Junkie
The Signature Song round was nice and all, but Queendom‘s Cover Battle Stage is what butters the bread. Whether it’s AOA‘s last stand with “Egotistic”, Oh My Girl‘s format-defining rendition of “Destiny” or even the controversial “Sixth Sense” cover by Lovelyz, this round typically produces a healthy portion of each season’s most memorable moments. Will Queendom 2 succeed in the same way?
Episode 3 starts with each group musing over the first round’s raw data, which mostly just reveals how severely Hyolyn bashed all their heads in. Meanwhile SinB and VIVIZ plot revenge on their backstabbing rivals, while Kep1er mourns their lack of global vote, a category they thought they would win handily. All the teams resolve to do better next round, except Hyolyn who just like, cackles and eats cake or something.
The show’s Token Male Lee Yongjin then presents the benefit chance to each team. There are 5 options to choose from, 4 of which offer some a sneak peak into one team’s performance: Outfit, Prop, Song Choice, or Choreography. The last choice is to forego any sort of spy info and just receive some pampering. Brave Girls‘ Minyoung doesn’t give a shit about the other teams and demands pampering. Eunji mentions she kind of wants to see some choreography and you can see Minyoung’s heart shatter in real time. “Just pick one” she barks as she sulks off.
Similarly, Kep1er’s Chaehyun is unable to sway her team into a luxurious spa session, to her own disappointment. They also go with the Choreography Spoiler. WJSN go with a Choreo Spoiler as well after leader Exy promises a spa day to the members if they get #1. LOONA picks Song Spoiler, and VIVIZ and Hyolyn both pick pampering.
Each team play a mini-game in order to see how “good” the benefit is. Both Kep1er and Brave Girls succeed with full marks, as the choreo game is insanely easy compared to the other two games, even though Exy still manages to screw it up. LOONA, VIVIZ and Hyolyn fail miserably at their attempts. Through the choreo spying, we learn that LOONA is doing “Shake It”, VIVIZ is performing “Unnatural”, and Kep1er’s preview is incomprehensible.
For placing first in the opening round, Hyolyn also gets the benefit of choosing the order of performances for the Cover Battle. WJSN are first, followed by LOONA, Brave Girls, VIVIZ, Kep1er, then finally Hyolyn herself.
Finally, the day of performances arrives. Hyolyn enters her green room only to be surprised by yet another 1st place benefit: a ‘Paradise’ spread of treats and beverages, along with a massage chair, which her dancers take full advantage of.
We get a montage of fans entering the studio, as well as a spotlight on the special guests judges. Queendom 1’s (G)I-dle is here, along with AOA’s Hyejeong and Chanmi, as well as The Boyz, PENTAGON, TO1, and ONEUS from Kingdom. Anticipation is high as the second round starts.
WJSN is the first to perform, and verily we are presented with their preparation montage. Back at Starship’s offices, Soobin busts out the PowerPoint yet again to go through all their options for covering in VIVIZ/GFriend‘s back catalogue. Most of the group quickly agrees that their 2016 hit “Navillera” is the song they resonate with the most (it’s my personal favorite, as well).
Mnet, meanwhile, is trying to make the hourglass incident some sort of big, traumatic narrative thing for WJSN. But it’s really not hitting, firstly because the hourglass wasn’t the reason why they lost last round (Hyolyn was) and second because, as far as setbacks go, this season is so ravaged by COVID-19 that dancing on a sandy stage seems tame in comparison. But okay, yeah sure, they’ve overcome the trauma of broken props, and are forging ahead with confidence.
While practicing, Starship sends in support in the form of Joohoney and Hyungwon of Himbo Team 6, I mean Monsta X. Blah blah blah hourglass blah blah crisis means opportunity. My eyes snap back into place as the two sunbaes view the practice recordings and tell WJSN directly that the performance isn’t powerful or engaging. In particular, Joohoney singles out Yeoreum, who is responsible for the solo dance break. Yeoreum, who rarely gets to show a fiercer dance style during WJSN’s regular comebacks, becomes motivated and vows to exceed expectations.
WJSN’s makeover of “Navillera” is a witchy, occult take on the youthful original. It’s…. not so great.
With first little bit being so witchy/hazy, I thought the song would take a dark turn, something maybe like a “Scream” or PIXY – “Bewitched”. But instead, the arrangement just casts the intro aside and goes into a high bpm, almost disco strut, then shifts into a braindead dembow post-chorus drop. And then one of the worst raps of Exy’s career. The stage is a bloated mess, and doesn’t earn any of the time it takes to develop. No charm, no surprises, no story, nugu-esque performance. What an awful arrangement of a great song.
“Navillera” is my favorite GFriend song because it’s the most subtly sad/dark, but, ironically, by darkening the image they’ve removed all nuance from the performance, and backfilled it with nonsense. The ugly plastic bleachers that hound them all performance long just keep getting in the way, making the transitions between formations unnecessarily awkward. Yeoreum’s dance is one of the best parts of the whole ordeal, which means it’s like a B- in a class of D+’s. At least the hourglass didn’t break!
Back in the green room, reactions range from “they sing well live” to “I liked the beginning” to “how unexpected”. Woof.
Next is LOONA, finally making their real debut performance on Queendom 2.
Flashback to right after the end of Round 1. The squad is feeling the pressure, since their no-show in Round 1 caused them to automatically place sixth. Hyolyn calls them and informs them that she’ll be covering their song and vice versa. After much deliberation, LOONA decides to cover “Shake It”.
They go over to Hyolyn’s studio to get some pointers on the key moves in the choreo. After some jokes and pranks and what not, LOONA gets some time to talk to Hyolyn about all the struggles they’ve had as a group, the long hiatuses, the bankruptcy rumors, etc. For many of them, Queendom 2 represents the first time in a long time that they’ve felt like a real, active K-Pop group.
LOONA’s take on “Shake It” is an absolute delight, especially put side-by-side with WJSN’s dismal “Navillera” stage. By taking the classic summer tune and shifting it into a bubbly, Grease-meets-Newsies-type musical number transforms the energy of the song while keeping it’s joyful capability intact. LOONA haven’t had a chance to be bubbly since “Hi High”, and this felt like the same kind of fun that those early 2010’s K-Pop MV’s encompassed.
And the stage is so complex! I’m surprised by how many little gimmicks and tricks they packed into the performance. The parade of bite-sized set-pieces all fit together really well and had a great rhythm. LOONA used the whole stage; even if there was an awkward change to be made in one area, there was always something else to be focused on.
Memorable moments come in rapid-fire succession: Chuu‘s tablecloth interlude, Gowon‘s changing booth skit, HyunJin‘s costume tear-away. And at the end, LOONA take a big note of advice from Hyolyn, making the stage a festival. But even with all that added, they still allow the key moves in “Shake It” shine. The close-up of Choerry just doing the simple shoulder shimmy is as much of a highlight as anything else. It’s overwhelming in a great way. I’m sure there were a ton of mistakes, but I was too busy having a good time to notice.
Like, not to shit on WJSN all day but, do you remember ANYTHING from that performance? Meanwhile, Exy watches from the green room and knows they’re fucked.
Our third and final performance of the episode is Brave Girls, who are performing one of Kep1er’s uhhh three songs. The flashback to Brave Girls choosing the song seems like a self-own from Mnet, in that BG doesn’t know any of the songs and Minyoung keeps clowning on them. By process of elimination, they end up picking a song I immensely prefer to “WA DA DA”, the b-side “MVSK”.
Unfortunately preparations are sidelined by the group all getting COVID, delaying their recording and practice. Even when they finally can get back into the studio, it’s obvious that the girls, especially Minyoung, are not in the best physical condition. But considering what Brave Girls have been through to get to this point, a bad studio session is nothing.
Brave Girls’ idea for “MVSK” is to literally inject magic into the performance, by way of a “Now You See Me” theme. This is smart because stage magic fits Brave Girls brand of sexy fun, but also because “Now You See Me” is a movie that only boomers enjoy. So constituency wise, they’re right on target.
But once those first piano chords hit, call me Metro because I’m boomin’ hard. Throwing the Big Pun – “Still Not A Playa” hook on the track instantly put a smile on my face (stfu with your “but Ariana Grande“), which immediately turned into a stink face when the future-bass disco drop chorus smacked me in the face. But I remain impressed by their gall, changing tempo all over the place, making up the rules as they go. By the time the EDM black-light dance break hit, I had to surrender.
I don’t know if it was a good performance, much less a great one, but it was definitely memorable. To ensure a win, Brave Girls bribe the entire audience with cold hard cash. This blatant sajaegi must be stopped!!
The third episode ends here, with the final three teams performing next week.
So, halfway through the Cover Battle, how do the Q2 performances compare to those in season 1? I’d say… not favorably.
To be fair, we’ve only seen three of the six performances. One was great (LOONA), one was very very bad (WJSN) and one was a glorious mess (Brave Girls). But if these are the best we’re gonna get all season, then Q2 will be an objective disappointment.*
That being said, the preview for Hyolyn’s stage is absolutely batshit (haha pun intended) so Episode 4 has a non-zero chance of being the goat.
- As a general disclaimer, I didn’t finish Kingdom because I couldn’t even get through Road to Kingdom without falling unconscious, sorry not sorry.
- The biggest beneficiary of Soojin‘s exit from (G)I-dle has to be Miyeon, who has to be the most “pushed” idol around, these days.
- SinB/VIVIZ using indicators and phone messages that explain her perpetual RBF is a Very Good Thing.
- Had a laugh at Brave Girls’ Yujeong being confused at “Shine (Kep1er Version)”.
- Had a long cry at “WA DA DA” Metal Version.
- There is an aegyo cold war between VIVIZ Eunha and Chuu and Eunha is winning on all fronts.
- AOA does not look happy to be there, Hyejeong especially.
- Face award goes to Eunseo for the shriek of frustration at Exy’s fumbling of the benefit chance.
- 2nd place Face goes to Eunji during “Shine (Minyoung version)”.
- When they pipe in the “cheers” of the global fans it kind of sounds like a chorus of trapped, wailing souls.
- Any concept in which Olivia Hye can wear pants is one she approves of.
- I don’t get the jacket-leg thing Kim Lip does at all but whatever, one dud out of 20 details is a fair hit rate.
- Appalling lack of Behind the Scenes B-side content this week, pls giev Mnet.
- BlockBerry Creative: Yes to tearaway clothing, no to providing the correct amount of drinking glassware for all the dancers.
- If Yves and Heejin really were in charge of the production as a whole, they will have great post-idol futures as production managers.
- “Shake It” has some great sleight-of-hand, subtly allowing Gowon off stage to adjust her wardrobe between the rap and her skit with Chuu. So complex!
- I have cashed out all my crypto holdings to purchase an equivalent stake in Brave Brothers Mnet bucks. See you on the moon fellow apes.